How to Stay Safe From Sharks in the Ocean

Bull Shark
••• Public Domain by Albert Kok

When thinking about the apex predator of the ocean, most people quickly think of sharks. Sharks have been around for over 400 million years and still dominate the sea today. Despite the menacing depiction portrayed by films such as “Jaws,” sharks are typically not interested in attacking or eating humans.

Actually, shark attacks are very rare, with only 129 cases reported around the world in the year 2020. A person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a shark. However, it is still important to be wary when in the ocean and know how to reduce the risk of a shark attack.

When Do Sharks Feed?

Sharks do not sleep the same way people do, as they have to keep swimming in order to move oxygen-rich water through their gills to survive. So when are sharks most active, and can sharks stop swimming? Sharks have active periods and resting periods that still allow them to swim constantly. Shark feeding times are mainly at dusk and dawn.

How often do sharks eat? Research suggests sharks will consume roughly one or two meals per week. With this in mind, it is smart to avoid going into the ocean at dawn and dusk to minimize the risk of a run-in with a shark.

Also, it is imperative not to swim in an area with schools of fish or where someone is fishing. The fish attract sharks to the area and increase the risk of coming across one. It is especially important to avoid areas of sewage, runoff or possible concentrations of baitfish, as these areas may be feeding spots for the sharks.

What Attracts Sharks?

Shark feeding time is generally at dusk and dawn, but there are other factors that may attract a shark your way. First, sharks are naturally drawn to splashing, as it is a typical fear response from prey species and could indicate an easy meal. With this in mind, avoid any excessive splashing and remain calm in case you do encounter a shark. If you come into contact with a shark, it is best to slowly evacuate the water.

Next, sharks are attracted to contrasting colors and shiny objects. Sharks use their keen eyesight as a means to detect prey. Wearing bright swimsuits can be alluring to a shark in otherwise dull waters. Moreover, shiny jewelry may entice sharks by reflecting light in the water and mimicking the scales of a fish.

Last, but certainly not least, sharks will close in on any blood they get a whiff of. Sharks can smell blood in the water from hundreds of yards away. So avoid getting into the ocean when actively bleeding.

Another way people minimize risk is by staying out of the water during menstruation, however, there is no research to support the concern that menstruation increases the risk of a shark attack.

Other Safety Suggestions

It is best to use a buddy system when going into the ocean to reduce your risk of coming face-to-face with a shark. Sharks are more likely to prey upon someone who is alone as opposed to someone in a small group. The buddy system would also be helpful for providing aid in case a shark attack were to occur.

It is also a good idea to avoid murky water. Murky water can cause a shark to mistake a person for a seal or sea turtle, their preferred prey.

In order to minimize risk it is best to be knowledgeable about the ideal conditions sharks will hunt under and to think about what attracts them. Avoid the water during dawn and dusk, and do not swim near large schools of fish or people fishing. Try not to wear bright colors or jewelry, and avoid the water if you are bleeding. Finally, swimming in small groups and being aware of your surroundings will help lower the odds of meeting the ocean’s apex predator.

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